Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell: Synonymous with Shreveport
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323 Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell Synonymous with Shreveport —John M. Shaw John Shaw’s piece draws well-deserved recognition to two musicians, Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell. Giles, a fixture on the Shreveport music scene since the mid-1950s, has combined secular and sacred music throughout his career. His musical beginnings in rock-and-roll soon turned to professional pursuits in gospel. He sang with the California-based Pilgrim Jubilee singers during the early 1960s. By middecade , he turned to soul and, from 1967 to 1977, made a series of highly sought-after soul records on three local labels (Murco, Alarm, and Custom Sound); he also recorded one release for the Stax label. Today, the Reverend Eddie Giles continues to perform, playing and recording with Shreveport’s Ever-Ready Gospel Singers and others. In addition, he continues to broadcast over KOKA, a local black gospel radio station. Reuben Bell is a more reticent, though significant figure among southern soul singers in Shreveport. His recording career began in the same year and on the same label as Giles, and continued sporadically until 1983, when he seems to have lost patience with the music industry. Along with another soul artist with Ark-La-Tex roots, Geater Davis, Bell appeared on the House of Orange label in 1971. He also recorded an album with local entrepreneur Roy Mahoney eleven or so years later, but his records never sold well. Thereafter, he made only rare public performances. Bell lived in or near Shreveport until his death in 2004, while living in Shreveport’s Cedar Grove neighborhood. JOHN M. SHAW 324 Shreveport, Louisiana, a town some 240 miles northwest of the state capital in Baton Rouge, is but a mere twelve-mile hop from the Texas border. Over the years, Shreveport has become famous in soul music circles for Stan Lewis’s Jewel-Paula-Ronn group of labels and distribution and a smaller group of labels owned by Dee Marais and Dick Martin, led by Murco. Acknowledging the latter, in 2000, Ace Records in Britain issued a compilation CD titled Shreveport Southern Soul: The Murco Story [Kent Soul CDKEND 178]. Of the twenty-six tracks, seven were credited to Eddie Giles [either as Eddy Giles, Eddy “G” Giles, or Eddy “G” Giles and the Jive Five] and five to Reuben Bell [as Reuben Bell, Reuben Bell and the Beltones, or Reuben Bell and the Casanovas]. Both artists went on to record for other labels in the not too distant vicinity, notably Alarm, also based in Shreveport. These features on Eddie Giles and Reuben Bell have been built around taped interviews with the artists, conducted in February 2000 by John Shaw, a devotee of Shreveport soul, then a student at the University of Memphis and currently employed by Select-O-Hits Distributors out of Memphis, Tennessee. The interviews were originally planned for inclusion in Voices from the Shadows magazine, and it is with gratitude to its editor, Rod Dearlove, that the tapes have now been made available for use here. Eddie Giles Eddie Giles was born in March 1938, in a little town called Frierson, Louisiana, about thirty miles south of Shreveport itself. His musical activities began when he decided to pick up on playing the guitar, as he told John . . . “I need to go back to when I first picked up the strings. And when I say ‘strings,’ this was a two-string guitar. I don’t know how many other musicians have played the two-string guitar but this started back in the town of Frierson, in the frame house. We’d buy hay for cows and what not and they had what we called hay wire. And I got two strands of hay wire and I cut it and made up a two-string guitar on the side of my grandmother’s house and, oh boy! I was having a good time but when she found out what I had did, she had a good time! And I had to get rid of that. So, from that point on, I was looking in a magazine and I saw something that said ‘sell three-hundred garden seeds and you can have a prize of your choice’ . . . baseball gloves, bat, radio, guitar, and so forth. My thing was a guitar. I ordered the seeds and I waited the next day for the seeds to come but it was too soon, it took about two weeks. So when EDDIE GILES AND REUBEN BELL 325 the...


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